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Bookselling Requires a Great Query Letter & It's Harder Than It Looks

bleedingcool.com – Monday May 25, 2020

The query letter is a single page—usually closer to half a page—whose purpose is to explain who the writer is and what their book is about. As Hodapp says, the letter has one goal: to get the agent to request the full manuscript, "period." It's harder than it looks. Agents receive thousands of letters and only respond to a small fraction.

Hodapp spent time explaining so many ways a query can go right or wrong. She talked about "comps," or comparative titles, the one or two existing books that the author's book is most like. Sometimes authors are afraid to mention comps because they don't think the comparison is close enough, or they mention too many– just another example of a challenge the author has to navigate to get the agent's eye. She also talked about tone, how authors can let emotions curdle a letter into a sort of complaint email, which defies the purpose of trying to get a follow-up. Hodapp frequently presents on writing and querying, and her advice is invaluable.

[Read the full article]

How to write a novel in lockdown

goodhousekeeping.com – Saturday May 23, 2020

Summoning up the energy to be both creative and disciplined in order to make something meaningful is an enormous challenge at the best of times. All but the most robotic of writers are in a perpetual struggle to capture the novel that seemed so perfect when it was conceived, so writing well at a time when we are all distracted and anxious and pre-occupied seems even more daunting.

Writing is as much about stamina and discipline as it is about imagination and inspiration, so you need to put yourself in training. Every book is different, with its own unique set of problems, and it’s never easy (and nor should it be, like anything worthwhile) but after 21 novels, I’ve found a few tricks to keep me on track: a combination of routine, confidence-building and kindness.

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How to write 1,000 poems in 1,000 days

theguardian.com – Tuesday May 19, 2020

For the past 1,000 days, I’ve been writing at least one poem a day. I started on 17 August 2017 as a terrorist attack was unfolding in Barcelona. I was alone in a pub (standard for poets) and found myself writing a few lines on my phone. I posted it on Instagram, where I explained that I was experimenting with writing fast poems. That experiment is now wildly out of control.

It may not be the healthiest pursuit. It requires daily engagement with the details of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, school shootings, celebrity deaths, sporting events and the slow plotlines of Brexit, Trump and climate change – and now there’s a pandemic to write about. Even so, there are days when it feels as if either the news or my mind has slowed to a standstill. It has helped that “Tuesday” rhymes with “quiet news day”.

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Literary magazines are often the first place new authors are published. We can’t lose them

theconversation.com – Saturday May 16, 2020

Australia’s literary journals are produced in a fragile ecosystem propped up by a patchwork of volunteer labour, generous patrons and, with any luck, a small slice of government funding.

The Sydney Review of Books, the Australian Book Review and Overland were among a group of publications who sought four-year funding from the Australia Council in 2020 but were unsuccessful.

These publications join the ranks of many others – among them Meanjin and Island – defunded by state or federal arts funding bodies in recent years.

[Read the full article]

The importance of sadism in writing a great screenplay

spectator.us – Saturday May 2, 2020

How do you tell a great story? According to Craig Mazin, you have to be a sadist.

‘As a writer, you are not the New Testament God who turns water into wine,’ Mazin chuckles on his long-running podcast Scriptnotes. ‘You are the Old Testament God who tortures Job because, I don’t know, it seems like fun.’ Mazin wrote HBO’s horrifying, incandescent miniseries Chernobyl, and so knows of what he speaks. In the episode of this podcast titled ‘How to Write a Movie’, he describes how screenwriters build plot out of suffering.

He outlines a scenario, making the stakes higher each time. Suppose our main character is a single father desperate to protect his child. Not good enough. OK, now suppose he is a single father who witnessed his entire family being murdered, leaving him only one child. Better — but how about this: a man’s entire family are murdered before his eyes, leaving him only one child, and the child is disabled and vulnerable. Then the man loses his child.

It sounds like pure sadism. In fact, it’s the opening 10 minutes of Finding Nemo.

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Stay at Home — and Write Your Memoir #2

authorlink.com – Saturday May 2, 2020

Last month I wrote here about using your stay-at-home time to work on a memoir and suggested the basics for getting started. This month I’m offering the next step: figuring out what to do with all those memories you’ve been stockpiling in preparation for writing, or with all the stories you’ve already written. What should you do with them? Do you plot your memoir as a novelist might do and somehow fit these in, or is there some other way to use this material?

My belief is that writing memoir in the early stages, is best done without any structure hanging over your head. Why? Because the heart of your memoir—what it’s really about—is best found by working freely to remember and record, to suss out the emotional hot spots in memory and to get the details down.

Still, I know most writers want to get a handle on the shape of their story sooner, rather than later. So, I offer a tool to give you a sense of control, and yet still stave off the official plotting of your memoir for a while longer, at least until you’ve had ample time to explore your memories and learn what is at the base of them driving you to write.

[Read the full article]

So, you want a critique?

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach

firstwriter.com – Saturday May 2, 2020

You asked for it. You may even have paid for it. But you still cringe when you open the emailed result of the critique and begin to read. You wanted to hear that your novel is great and you’re an astonishing writer, yet that’s not what the words on the screen are saying to you... But here are some ideas to let percolate in your mind when you’ve received what you wanted—some honest criticism.

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Jamie Holmes wrote a book. Here are 9 things to know about the process.

wftv.com – Thursday April 30, 2020

So you’ve got some spare time on your hands, and you’re determined to do the one thing you’ve always dreamed of doing: writing the Great American Novel.

What to do? Where to begin? Here are nine ways to finally take charge of that blank page:

[Read the full article]

Majority of authors 'hear' their characters speak, finds study

theguardian.com – Tuesday April 28, 2020

Some writers have always claimed they can hear their characters speaking, with Enid Blyton suggesting she could “watch and hear everything” and Alice Walker describing how her characters would “come for a visit ... and talk”. But a new study has shown this uncanny experience is very widespread, with almost two-thirds of authors reporting that they hear their characters’ voices while they work.

Researchers at Durham University teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival to survey 181 authors appearing at the 2014 and 2018 festivals. Sixty-three per cent said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently.

[Read the full article]

Reality writes

thebookseller.com – Thursday April 23, 2020

Writing doesn’t pay. According to a report released last year by the Royal Society for Literature and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, most writers earn below the minimum wage. The numbers are stark: two thirds of writers earn between £100 and £10,000. Only 5% of writers can expect to earn over £30,000 a year. The average income from writing has shrunk from an equivalent of £18,013 in 2006 to £10,497, and on average it’s lower for disabled and BAME writers. Only 10% of authors now derive their income solely from writing.

Talking about finances for writers remains taboo, despite a literary landscape that pays lip service to being savvier in examining its role in systems of exclusivity and privilege. Publishing remains one of the few industries where salaries are not routinely disclosed on job adverts; it’s a sector where unpaid internships and minimum wage starting roles are still viewed as acceptable, if not essential. It’s no wonder that this culture of exclusivity bleeds into all areas of the literary environment. Despite the supposedly democratising effect of social media, the agents, editors and writers on these platforms still sell the myth that writing is a leisure activity reserved for the upper middle classes, an affectation that Nathalie Olah typifies as a “twee picture [...] a lifestyle choice” in her book Steal As Much As You Can.

[Read the full article]

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